A committee of the European Parliament said on Thursday it opposed an agreement with the United States on sharing bank data, a move Washington says could set back counter-terrorism investigations.
Parliament's civil liberties committee recommended that parliament not ratify an interim U.S.-EU agreement on sharing bank transfer information when it votes next week, arguing that the deal fails to protect the privacy of EU citizens.
"We want a new and better deal with proper safeguards for people's privacy," said Martin Schulz, a leader of parliament's Socialist grouping, the second largest bloc in the assembly.
"The fight against terrorism is a priority -- but the EU cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over its citizens' fundamental rights," he said in a statement.
Under the existing interim deal, the United States is able to access information collected by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which registers money transfers among states.
Washington regards the information as vital in combatting terrorism financing. The interim agreement went into force on Feb. 1 for an initial period of nine months but will be suspended if parliament votes against it next week.
Aside from the Socialists, parliament's Green and Liberal groups have also criticised the agreement, making it likely that it will be rejected. The Socialists, Greens and Liberals have a combined 317 seats in the 736-seat parliament.
Washington previously had access to the transfer data, but lost it when SWIFT moved its servers from the United States to Europe. It now wants a permanent agreement on data sharing.
The EU proposed a temporary solution because of concerns within the bloc about privacy, most notably in Germany.
U.S. terrorism investigators say the data has played a key role in several cases, including one in which they say an attack on a transatlantic flight was prevented.
Underscoring U.S. concerns, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the president of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek on Tuesday to press for his support for the interim agreement, sources in the European Parliament said.
Under the interim deal, the United States can access data related only to those suspected of terrorist activities. U.S. authorities have to justify their demand for information and focus their request as narrowly as possible.
ReutersLast Mod: 04 Şubat 2010, 19:31